Afghan shepherds like Abdullah have gradually taken the place of the Kurds, who have become rare in the mountains of grass and stones in the province of Tünceli (east).
No matter the language barrier: “We don’t know what they do when they are in the mountains, but they bring the animals back, so everything is fine”, smiles Mustafa Acun, a breeder from the region who owns a hundred animals.
At nearly 2,000 meters above sea level and long hours of walking from the nearest village, the task is thankless and lonely.
The shepherds follow the rhythm of the ewes and goats who prefer to graze at night, when the temperatures drop.
But when the day disappears, the predators are never far away.
Abdullah may never leave his old rifle, but two days ago two of his animals were killed by a bear.
“It’s full of wolves and bears around here, they attack the sheep constantly,” said Suleyman Ezam, a 29-year-old shepherd with a sunburned face, who arrived in Turkey in 2015 after leaving his wife and a child in Afghanistan. three month old baby.
– Improvised shepherds –
The young father passed through Iran, where he worked on construction sites. Then he went to Turkey, where hundreds of thousands of Afghans live, and improvised as a shepherd.
The pay is good, between 8,000 and 15,000 Turkish liras per month, or 440 to 820 euros, two to three and a half times the minimum wage. But it remains insufficient, even in times of crisis, to create vocations among young people in the region.
“Even our children don’t want or can’t do this work,” says Mustafa Acun, admiring the courage of Afghan shepherds.
Yet even here in these Lost Valleys, hyperinflation and the devaluation of the Turkish Lira are being felt.
The milk from sheep and goats no longer brings in enough and some breeders are thinking of sending part of their herd to the slaughterhouse.
For shepherds who transfer a large part of their earnings to their relatives, in Afghanistan, the wages of their sweat melt when converted into dollars.
In these conditions, Hafiz, a young Afghan shepherd from the valley, dreams of new horizons. To AFP journalists, he asks: “Do you know how I can go to Canada? Do you have any contacts?”